Lando Norris on McLaren: 'Why we're the perfect title-winning combination'


Hot on the heels of a new contract and Monaco podium, Lando Norris is looking to win the F1 championship with McLaren — after he's overcome some "nervous" moments this year

Norris Monaco 2021

Lando Norris was delighted with third in Monaco – but cautioned other circuits wouldn't bring such rewards for McLaren

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Monaco proved to be quite a week for Lando Norris. On the Wednesday morning McLaren announced a “multi-year” contract extension with the 21-year-old, giving him welcome job security and taking away any distractions over potential future interest from other teams.

On Saturday morning the Englishman put in a brilliant qualifying lap to earn fifth on the grid, just two-tenths off pole position – while his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo had to settle for 12th.

And then on Sunday he drove a near faultless race to claim third, promoted two spots by the non-start for poleman Charles Leclerc and an early retirement for Valtteri Bottas.

Despite all of the positives it was perhaps still not quite the perfect weekend. After all, McLaren is locked in a fight with Ferrari for third in the constructors’ championship, and in Monaco, where the Maranello cars showed impressive pace, Carlos Sainz took “best of the rest” honours with second place.

“We can’t be super confident with everywhere we go”

Nevertheless it was another great result for Norris, whose 2021 season so far has gone fourth, third, fifth, eighth and third. Despite that blip in round four in Spain he lies third in the World Championship, ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez, guys who drive cars that are capable of winning races.

There’s little doubt that the youngster has found an extra gear in 2021, and he now has that spark of confidence that makes a very good racing driver into a great one, and thus a potential World Champion.

However even as he celebrated his Monaco podium, he cautioned that the Spanish race a fortnight earlier indicated that McLaren can’t be sure of being competitive at every upcoming venue. Fortunately, poor slow corner performance in the Catalunya track’s tight third sector was not translated to the principality.

“I think Barcelona was the only, not worry, but I guess we can’t be super confident with everywhere we go,” he told Motor Sport.

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“It was just a different story, we set up the car very differently, we didn’t know what the car was going to be like, just because it’s slower speed we thought we’d struggle a bit more – and in Barcelona we struggled in the slower speeds.

“We have to just kind of understand it, why when we ran the set-up we have in Barcelona that doesn’t work as well, but why it worked very well here.”

Norris conceded that there’s more to be done to ensure consistently competitive form in 2021.

“We’re not there yet, we’ve still got a lot of work to do. I was very happy with my qualifying lap yesterday. I don’t think we were two-tenths off on pure pace, I think I put in a very good lap, I think realistically we were three of four-tenths off.

“We’ll see. I’m confident for certain tracks because of this result, places like Singapore, for example. Tracks that are more like Barcelona, I’m a bit more nervous about.

Baku I guess I can be half-confident, half-nervous. Mixed feelings, but I’m confident we’re doing a good job, but we just need to keep it up and keep improving.”

A second podium of the 2021 season was the perfect way for Norris to celebrate his extended contract. The new deal shows an impressive degree of confidence in both parties that they can continue to make progress together.

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“I’m super excited,” said Norris. “I’m happy to be in F1. But even happier, and it makes it more special, that I can just continue that with McLaren.

“And, yeah, it’s multi-year, but I wanted to go on for as long as possible. And I want to score my first win, and I want to score a championship with McLaren.

“So I’m dedicated to them. And they have the same confidence back in me. So it’s a perfect combination. I hope it can go on for many years. And we’ll just continue writing this little story that we’ve written so far from four years ago.

“I’m happy. I like the position I’m in, I like to be able to help the team, lead the team when I can. And that’s the job I’ll be doing.”

Norris Monaco 2021

McLaren’s progress year on year is evidenced by a brace of podiums for Norris after five races in 2021

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Some could argue that over the recent weeks Norris has put himself high on every F1 team’s wish list, and that he could perhaps have kept his options open a little longer.

However, that does a disservice to McLaren, which despite its years of struggle remains an organisation with the resources and the potential to return to winning ways. Recognising that, Norris committed to the longer-term instead of gambling on an opening perhaps arising elsewhere.

“I guess I kind of knew that from the beginning that McLaren, even when they were struggling, they’re still a big team. People would love to be with McLaren, and I guess I’m still privileged to be in that position.

“I feel like I’ve earned it. But also it’s even better to know that they have the faith in me, and they want me to stick around for even longer.

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“They’ve always been a big team. But I think now more than ever, or more than for many, many years, it’s an even better position to be in, knowing what we can achieve in the future, and what we’ve been achieving over the last couple of years. So hopefully we can just take that next step to make it even better.”

Talk of McLaren getting back to winning ways is not just hot air. As we know 2022 is a re-set under the new rules, and the Woking team has as much chance as any team of getting it right.

“It’s equalising for everyone,” said Norris. “I think you’ll see the people who have been able to change their focus earlier onto next year’s cars will still be quicker. And we’ll learn a bit more about the cars, and so on.

“It’s very, very unlikely you’re not going to see a Mercedes or a Red Bull at the front, or a Ferrari. But I’m hoping we’re included in that. We’re still focusing on this year, but we are shifting our focus to next year and making sure we’re as prepared for that as possible.”

“Lando is continuously working hard on himself in order to get even better.”

McLaren is certain that in Norris it has the right man, and while Daniel Ricciardo is still getting fully confident with the car, the feeling is that they will gel into a formidable line-up.

“I think it was not a big surprise for both sides that we committed so early to continuing our journey together,” said team principal Andreas Seidl. “It was clear that he feels very happy in the team.

“It was also clear that with everything he has delivered for the team the last two years, plus this great start to the season, that we are very happy with him. So there was no reason to waste any more time or energy in having lengthy negotiations. But it was good to get this out of the way.”

Seidl agreed that the team has seen huge progress from Norris since his first season in 2019.

Norris and Sainz Monaco 2021

Norris and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz are friends off the track, but them and their respective teams are locked in a fierce battle on it


“It’s simply impressive to see the development he has shown as a driver, and as a person, over the last three years he’s working together with us. It is a big challenge and task for these young guys after the junior categories to jump into F1.

“And it’s not just about driving the car quickly. It’s also about everything else that’s ongoing outside of the car in F1, which is challenging, and is big for these guys.

“How he managed to get through these big challenges, how he managed also to keep the focus on what matters in the end, which is driving these cars quick on track, plus the continuous learning together with his engineering crew, together with his team, in order to make these steps from year-to-year, which you have to make in your first years, is obviously great.

“We’re looking forward, and it’s great for us to know that we have now some more years with him and Daniel in the team, because a top driver line-up is obviously key on our journey to get back to the front in F1.”

The hope is that team and Norris continue to learn and progress together.

“The good thing also is that we both know, on the team side and on Lando’s side, that we still have to make steps in order to get back to the front in F1,” said Seidl.

“Lando is continuously working hard on himself in order to get even better. We work hard on the team side in order to give him and Daniel a better car, because they can’t win races without a top team and a top car. But I think the direction is the right one.”